Thursday, March 6, 2014

Fight The Power

UMass is -- by far -- the town's largest employer

I received the following press release last night from UMass Grad Student Matthew Cunningham-Cook regarding the Only In Amherst minimum wage hike to $15/hour warrant article Town Meeting will vote on March 19 (if they get a quorum).

According to Mr. Cunningham-Cook the bylaw, unlike most town ordinances, is a "home rule petition" that further requires State Legislature approval so it would then apply to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the #1 employer in town.

Mr Cunningham-Cook is a contestant for Town Meeting but since the local town election is a week after the Special Town Meeting, he will not be able to support it on the floor of Town Meeting. 

It will be interesting to see if he can find a single business owner in town who would agree that student workers with "more money in their pockets" would translate into more business.  As it would take a tremendous boost in business to offset the steep increase in overhead brought on by the new increase in the cost of labor.

For most small businesses, the #1 overhead cost is labor.


AMHERST, MA-- The Student Labor Action Project at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst is launching a multifaceted campaign to end poverty through higher wages.

Amherst's poverty rate is 20.2%: overwhelmingly composed of students, as only 7.2% of families in Amherst are below the poverty line. At the same time, UMass is a huge employer, with nearly all of the university's 21,000 undergraduate students working on campus in one capacity or another.

Almost all work for less than $10/hour-- nowhere near enough to afford the cost of living in Amherst, where rents for a room frequently exceed $800/month.

Nationwide, fast food workers have gone on strike for a minimum wage of $15/hour. Sea-Tac, Washington just passed a ballot initiative mandating a minimum wage of $15/hour, and activists in Seattle are organizing to put an initiative on the 2014 ballot there as well.

SLAP is planning to replicate these successes here in Amherst, where the poverty rate has reached crisis levels, all while bloated administrative salaries extract funds out of the pockets of student workers and contribute significantly to the gentrification of the Pioneer Valley. (Men's basketball coach Derek Kellogg tops the list at $719,664. All told, 224 UMass employees make more than $200,000 per year.)

Our campaign has begun by collecting the requisite signatures to call a Special Town Meeting for a home rule petition to the legislature which would grant the Town of Amherst the power to implement a minimum wage of $15 per hour.

We are also launching an aggressive pressure campaign to make UMass may pay the $15 an hour minimum wage in the event that that the home rule petition fails to pass the legislature.

We are calling for inclusive language including the entire Town of Amherst because 1) small businesses in the Town will gain a massive source of new revenue were UMass' undergraduate student workers to have 50% more money in their pocket, and 2) we believe all employers should be held to the same standard of providing a living wage, which only $15/hour can achieve.

Given that UMass has 21,000 undergraduates with Amherst's population at 37,000, the overwhelming majority of low-wage employees are employed by UMass.

The Special Town Meeting has been called by the Select Board for March 19 at 7 PM for the Middle School Auditorium. We encourage all supporters to attend.

Amherst is a microcosm of the global trend of increasing wealth inequality, which the United Nations Development Program recently said "can undermine the very foundations of development and social and domestic peace."

UMass SLAP is a joint project of Jobs with Justice and the United States Student Association. Most of us work low-wage jobs on the UMass campus. This campaign is also supported by the Amherst Area Workers Rights Committee.


Adam Sweet said...

How does paying the 21,000 undergraduate students of UMass more money translate into profit for the business community of Amherst?

I don't see it.

Justice for Poncho said...

Amherst really needs to take down that UN flag. All the United Nations wants to do is control governments and the people who live in said countries. Whether it's the banning of taking away our Guns to setting sanctions on troubled areas in the world. Just think about how much aid is lost in 3rd world countries due to corruption. So people of Amherst stand up and remove that flag. Fly the Don't Thread On Me flag for at least it's for the people. Proud to be an American were at least I know I'm FREE.

Anonymous said...

I think his press release is making the argument that I should care as much about college students living in poverty as I do about families living in poverty. Sorry, but not convinced.

Anonymous said...

If the students have more money, what will they be spending it on in town? More beer and pizza? Students want stuff they can get at the mall. Another boost to Hadley.

Anonymous said...

Kids need more money to spend on rent yet somehow they will spend more at local amherst businesses. Nope, this kids simply wrong

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:03, I think you're spot on. Any cash left in these students pockets will end up at Target or Trader Joes (or more likely, online). A thinly veiled excuse pandering to local businesses - but actually it's just Amherst pushing its populist agenda.

Dr. Ed said...

Adam -- it's the so-called "multiplier effect" and the theory is that if I have an extra $50/$100 in my wallet at the end of the week, I'll spend it on something I otherwise wouldn't have.

Instead of going out in the cold and changing my oil myself, I'll pay someone else to do it and instead take the special woman to a restaurant. Now while neither the garage nor restaurant have totally fixed costs, the incremental costs of additional capacity are small relative to the far greater gross income from increased business, and hence more profits.

For example, it costs a restaurant quite a bit of money to open the door for business, even if no one shows up. The incremental cost of one extra diner is insignificant compared to this, even if they have to hire an extra waitress and a few more kids for the kitchen that night.

So this leads to the "broken window" theory of economic development -- have the cops go out and smash windows at random as the windows will have to be replaced which will create work for both those in the glazing trades and those who sell them their supplies -- and these folks will be buying new trucks, new clothes for their kids and whatnot, thus enabling all the folks who sell trucks and clothes to likewise spend more.

The problem is in paying for the broken windows -- even if they are covered by insurance, premiums will rise (as they did after 9-11 & Katrina). But let's say that the people whose windows were broken had to pay for them to be fixed -- that's money that they then won't be using for stuff *they* would have spent money on.

My MD made this point a couple years back about Romneycare -- even if it is only $60/week, that's money that a lot of families already had planned to spend for other necessary things like car tires.

It's also what's behind the so-called "forgotten man" of the first great depression -- while it was "great work if you can find it", what FDR's programs did was help those who had jobs at the expense of those who didn't.

Anonymous said...

More beer being consumed does mean more jobs for the guys who drive the beer trucks...

The Juggernaut said...

The Student Labor Action Project is a waste of taxpayer, and when I was a student there, my student fee money. They are an extremely biased, close-minded institute hell-bent on calling anyone who opposes them fascist/xenophobic/racially tinged/sexist or a dozen other adjectives to defend their half-baked opinions.

It will have no effect. The graduate students get better perks than I do at my job, and I have great perks while being far more productive. They shouldn't be paid the same as me either.

Dr. Ed said...

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

I am the person who taped the salary list to the front of the student union and then proceeded to print updated versions of it in the Minuteman newspaper.

A decade ago, it was less than 100 people over $100K -- and that was shocking. This is obscene!

The Median Average Household Income for Massachusetts is only $65,339, something like $51K for the Metro-Springfield area (which includes Amherst) -- and in many cases this is the income of two working adults.

And UMass Amherst is supposed to be "affordable" to children of moderate means?!?

This is part of why I say that UMass is not sustainable --- a model with salaries on this level is unaffordable.

Dr. Ed said...

The graduate students get better perks than I do at my job


I didn't -- over half of the graduate students don't, and this is eventually going to give them problems with the accreditators.

Anonymous said...

This kids an idiot. Raising minimum wage does not take anyone out of poverty. It was an assumption it was shown to be absolutely incorrect in the real world. Wait till he hits real life.

Anonymous said...

UMass SLAP said, "the cost of living in Amherst, where rents for a room frequently exceed $800/month."

Factually-inaccurate hyperbole is not helping their cause. The typical college student in Amherst who pays rent off-campus is paying more like $450/month.

More importantly, no college student expects to fully pay for their cost of living from the wages of a part-time hourly job requiring minimal skills and job experience.

Anonymous said...

Whine, piss and moan, what a bunch of idiots led by Kelley and Dr. Ed. Get a job and earn your own damn way in life. Nobody owes you or anybody else anything and be grateful for what you have. Theres plenty of people in this world with less. Better yourself, minimum wage is not designed to support your lazy ass, it's for shit work and idiots. Wake up, morons.

Anonymous said...

It is liberal insanity like this that created the Tea Party, well that and Karl Rove.

Dr. Ed said...

More importantly, no college student expects to fully pay for their cost of living from the wages of a part-time hourly job requiring minimal skills and job experience.

The purpose of the Land Grant University was so that they could -- and for the first century, students routinely did. Jack Welch, the son of a railroad conductor, did just that (he refereed intramural sports) and then went on to run GE.

You want to talk "entitlement" -- OK, what exactly do you call demanding that kids go way into debt to pay for the $200K salaries at UMass?